Documentation projects are usually time limited, but the products they create need regular, ongoing attention to work correctly without becoming obsolete.
In many organizations, the project team, which has seen the project through to completion, may continue to have responsibility for the final product post delivery. What is the impact of such maintenance projects on planning documentation activities? And how should the project team approach such documentation maintenance projects?
We always get to hear or read about how to create documentation from scratch, where we have the freedom and capacity to change anything, and we have little dependency on the technical team. None of these perceptions are true when we deal with documentation maintenance projects. Many times, such projects need to be completed in a very short time. They generally need immediate action, quick revisions, and quality output that satisfies the customer.
We need to realize that documentation is an integral part of the post delivery phase of a project, and keep in mind that we must do the following:
- Be aware that different types of documentation may need to be prepared for different customers of the same product.
- Don't wait to create and maintain documents until after the lack of documentation has hurt the project.
- Closely monitor the post-deliverable phase and plan for subsequent releases.
- Use the IDEAL model: Identify, Diagnose, Establish, Act, and Leverage.
Maintenance projects can involve any or all of the following:
- adding or removing functionality and content.
- revising the layout, i.e., moving pages or whole sections to a different location in the document.
- reconfiguring the whole product for a particular customer.
- changing an existing functionality.
The documentation maintenance process should be viewed as iterations of any development effort.
Maintenance Release Types
Error correction: correct faults in a delivered system. Documents need to reflect change requests from customers or from the testing group.
Enhancement: improve performance or add new functionality. Document activity needs to begin very early in these types of changes since it will involve planning and deployment of additional resources. This includes roll-forwards from previous maintenance releases.
Mixture: a combination of error correction and enhancement.
Adaptation: adapt the system to a new environment.
The documentation may need to reflect error correction, enhancement, or a mixture of these. It is likely that more time will be spent on enhancement releases than on error corrections. It is always vital to plan the next documentation release so as to maximize the efficiency of resources and also improve quality of the document. Thus, it is very important that the documentation team is involved from the initial phase of maintenance releases.